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‘LVMH of China’ to slow deal pace after US$4b global spree

[HONG KONG] Ruyi Holding Group, the Chinese apparel firm that agreed in February to buy control of Bally International AG, will slow its dealmaking after announcing more than US$4 billion of overseas acquisitions in the past three years.

Ruyi will focus on integrating existing brands and ease its M&A pace in the short to medium term, chairman Qiu Yafu said in an interview Monday in Hong Kong. In the future, Ruyi will only consider buying labels that are profitable and have high growth potential, according to Qiu, 60.

The group plans to invest more to revitalize brands owned by Hong Kong-listed unit Trinity Ltd., which controls British bespoke tailor Gieves & Hawkes, Qiu said. Ruyi expects Trinity's profit to improve significantly next year after boosting its online sales in China, he said.

Ruyi is shifting gears after declaring earlier this year its ambition to develop into the LVMH of China. The company, previously a little-known Chinese textile manufacturer, now owns several European luxury brands after purchases including UK trench coat maker Aquascutum and SMCP SA, the French fashion retailer whose labels include Sandro, Maje and Claudie Pierlot.

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Luxury companies such as Gucci owner Kering SA and LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE are counting on increasingly wealthy Chinese shoppers for the lion's share of their growth. Consumers in the second-biggest economy spent 105 billion euros (S$164.33 billion) on luxury purchases last year, almost a third of the worldwide total, a proportion expected to reach 40 per cent by 2024, according to Boston Consulting Group.

SMCP's brands have increased online sales in China by 40 per cent to 50 per cent this year, Qiu said. Ruyi targets similar growth rates for Trinity following recent partnerships with some online platforms, he said. It took control of Trinity in April, surpassing billionaire brothers Victor and William Fung as the company's biggest shareholder.

Trinity operates more than 250 stores in Greater China and Europe for Gieves & Hawkes, British clothing label Kent & Curwen, Paris-based Cerruti 1881 and licensed brand D'urban.

Ruyi aims to complete its purchase of Invista's Apparel & Advanced Textiles unit, which owns the rights to materials including Lycra and Coolmax fibers, by year-end, Qiu said. It's paying more than US$2 billion to buy the business from Invista, which is an arm of Koch Industries Inc., Bloomberg News reported last year.

Founded as Shandong Jining Woolen Mill in 1972, near the birthplace of Confucius, Ruyi controls Tokyo-traded Renown Inc. and Shenzhen-listed Shandong Jining Ruyi Woolen Textile Co. It's also been expanding in the US, cementing plans in 2017 to open a factory in Forrest City, Arkansas, and create as many as 800 jobs.

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